Disease: Pain Management and Nerve Blocks


    Nerve blocks are used for pain treatment and management. There are several different types of nerve blocks that serve different purposes.

    Often a group of nerves, called a plexus or ganglion, that causes pain to a specific organ or body region can be blocked with the injection of medication into a specific area of the body. The injection of this nerve-numbing substance is called a nerve block.

    How Are Nerve Blocks Used?

    Different kinds of nerve blocks are used for different purposes.

    • Therapeutic nerve blocks are used to treat painful conditions. Such nerve blocks contain local anesthetic that can be used to control acute pain.
    • Diagnostic nerve blocks are used to determine sources of pain. These blocks typically contain an anesthetic with a known duration of relief.
    • Prognostic nerve blocks predict the outcomes of given treatments. For example, a nerve block may be performed to determine if more permanent treatments (such as surgery) would be successful in treating pain.
    • Preemptive nerve blocks are meant to prevent subsequent pain from a procedure that can cause problems including phantom limb pain.
    • Nerve blocks can be used, in some cases, to avoid surgery.

    Types of Nerve Blocks

    Various areas of pain require different nerve block types. Below are a few of the available nerve blocks, followed in parentheses by some of the parts of the body for which they are used.

    • Trigeminal nerve blocks (face)
    • Ophthalmic nerve block (eyelids and scalp)
    • Supraorbital nerve block (forehead)
    • Maxillary nerve block (upper jaw)
    • Sphenopalatine nerve block (nose and palate)
    • Cervical epidural, thoracic epidural, and lumbar epidural block (neck and back)
    • Cervical plexus block and cervical paravertebral block (shoulder and upper neck)
    • Brachial plexus block, elbow block, and wrist block (shoulder/arm/hand, elbow, and wrist)
    • Subarachnoid block and celiac plexus block (abdomen and pelvis)

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